Topic: Trade

The Chinese in Africa – is there a backlash?

The debate in aid circles on China’s expanding role in Africa is often pretty crass – the demonisers v the rose-tinted spectacles. What has always struck me most in the past is how many Africans, both in government and elsewhere, prefer the businesslike approach of China to the finger-wagging of the ex-colonial powers. But China’s […]

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Land grabs: what's in the contracts? And an Indian land grab in Ethiopia

One of the problems with so-called ‘land grabs’ is secrecy. Most of the contracts that seal such deals are hidden from public scrutiny, which makes it very hard to establish what is really going on. The International Institute for Environment and Development, which is rapidly becoming the ‘go to’ thinktank on a whole range of […]

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The Upside of High Food Prices

Nice pieces from agricultural economist Steve Wiggins on the ODI and Guardian blogs, which I quote at length, because I think it’s an important correction to the discussion on the current food price spike. ‘In 2008 developing countries, and poor people within them, were hit hard by the price spike in the international cereals market. Once […]

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How can the global system manage scarcity?

Alex Evans is on a bit of a roll at the moment, with an excellent new paper on ‘Globalization and Scarcity: Multilateralism for a World with Limits’. It’s a great summary of the problems created by the threat of scarcity of food, land, water, energy, and ‘airspace’ (for greenhouse gas emissions). He confines his solutions […]

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How can Ethiopia’s coffee farmers get more from your $3 latte?

According to legend Kaldi (left), a 9th Century Ethiopian goatherd, discovered coffee when he saw his flock start leaping around after nibbling the bright red berries of a certain bush. He gave them a try, and the ensuing buzz prompted him to bring the berries to an Islamic holy man in a nearby monastery. The holy […]

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Should we buy roses from Ethiopia?

OK, back to Ethiopia week. On leaving Addis, we head off to the Rift Valley on one of Ethiopia’s many excellent roads (shame about the driving…) to an enormous flower farm owned by a company called Sher, which rents them out to three large Dutch flower companies, including Herburg Roses Ethiopia plc, who we are […]

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The Climate Campaign v Make Poverty History

Over on the Political Climate blog, Andrew Pendleton has been musing on the difference between the 2005 ‘make poverty history’ and ‘stop climate chaos’ campaigns. In his view the climate campaigners have failed to break out of the ‘green wedge’ of environmentalists, whereas MPH went mainstream. His explanation for the differences? MPH used one simple […]

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Africa's four different kinds of economies

I’m a sucker for typologies. I guess they’re a wonk’s equivalent of those ‘what were the ten best punk/ska/heavy metal albums of all time?’ discussions in the pub. Here’s a nice one from ‘Lions on the Move’, a breathlessly upbeat new McKinsey report on Africa. It finds four clusters of African economies + a few […]

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How much does US corn dumping cost Mexican farmers?

Remember dumping – the rich country farm subsidies that allow them to dump their products in poor countries at artificially cheap prices, thereby wiping out local agriculture? Tim Wise on the Triple Crisis blog has been running the numbers on the impact of NAFTA (US-Canada-Mexico Free Trade Agreement, in force since 1994). He calls it […]

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Is China finally running out of workers?

You don’t normally expect the Economist magazine to advocate a major shift in wealth from capital to labour, but it seems to make an exception in the case of China, the subject of this week’s fascinating cover story. The topic is China’s labour market: a few years ago, I and many others thought that the […]

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An effective public campaign (on palm oil)

You know you’ve had an impact when the Economist devotes three pages to your campaign, so hats off to Greenpeace and the other organizations featured in this week’s spread on palm oil. Here are some excerpts: “Palm oil is a popular, cheap commodity, which green activists are doing their best to turn into a commercial […]

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Seattle + 10 = Copenhagen?

I went out for a celebratory (if that’s the word) drink this week with a heroic band of Seattle Survivors. Ten years ago we were besuited NGO delegates at the notorious WTO ministerial, which collapsed in a welter of tear gas and turtles (or at least people dressed in turtle suits protesting at WTO rulings […]

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